Agency prepares for possibility of budget cuts |

Agency prepares for possibility of budget cuts

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune

With a decrease in revenue from application fees and a cut in Nevada funding already affecting the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the agency’s Governing Board on Thursday discussed options for trimming costs and boosting revenue.

The discussion took place during an all-day Governing Board retreat held at The Fresh Ketch restaurant in South Lake Tahoe.

Application fee revenue for the agency is down approximately $300,000 from last year because fewer applications were received.

The TRPA issues permits for a variety of construction projects and collects fees from the applicants.

The number of permit applications has fluctuated between 1,186 and 1,820 since 2000, with 1,286 applications being submitted in 2007, according to TRPA data.

The Nevada Legislature also has cut $73,156 from the agency’s 2007-08 and 2008-09 operating budgets.

A freeze on filling three vacant positions has been enacted to make up for the decreased funding.

Although the TRPA’s $12.3 million 2007-08 budget escaped cuts from the California side, agency officials aren’t convinced the budget crunch is over just yet.

“It’s miraculous we didn’t get cut this year,” said TRPA Executive Director John Singlaub. “We don’t expect that miracle to extend into next year given the $16 billion California budget deficit.”

The agency was spared cuts from the state this fiscal year because California’s funding for the agency is derived from the sale of vanity license plates, rather than the general fund.

If a proposed 10 percent across-the-board cut to state agencies came the TRPA’s way, it could mean another $500,000 reduction from the agency’s budget.

TRPA Deputy Executive Director Jerry Wells included just such figures in his presentation Thursday as a reminder of the budget cuts the agency could be facing in the future.

Board members steered clear of suggesting potential cuts to the agency’s stated priories, such as forest-fuels management, completing the regional plan update, helping eradicate aquatic invasive species in Lake Tahoe, implementing the next 10 years of the Environmental Improvement Program and updating the shorezone ordinances, but they did suggest analyzing a variety of cost reductions to TRPA staff.

Closing the North Shore satellite office, shifting more of the responsibility of the residential BMP retrofit program to conservation districts and staff furloughs all were options the board requested further analysis on.

Furloughs were seen as a last resort by at least two board members.

The board also directed staff to examine ways to increase revenue.

A couple of the ideas included charging local state and federal agencies filing fees, recouping legal expenses and charging for preapplication consultations.

Wells pledged to examine all of the board’s suggestions and expects to present details on a variety of options for a slimmer TRPA budget to the board in the future.

“We’ll apply these when the time comes,” Wells said. “It hasn’t come yet.”

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